Oh, it’s not Gallifrey. Oh, it’s still not Gallifrey. Let’s go and have an adventure anyway but
it’s still not Gallifrey is it? Not Gallifrey. Erm Hello and welcome to the Fan Show. We’ve been talking to departing lead writer
and executive producer Steven Moffat about his time on Doctor Who. Today in part 2, we’re discussing Steven’s
first 3 series as showrunner from the appointment of Matt Smith to the global domination of
the 50th anniversary. If Russell T Davies made Doctor Who a hit
in the UK, I think it was your era of the show that made it a global phenomenon. There
are lots of changes between The End of Time and The Eleventh Hour. Maybe the most obvious one is casting – you
hired three young, relatively unknown actors as your leads. Was that a no-brainer? Casting is never a no-brainer. Casting is the dark arts of television. Casting
is everything. Casting is absolutely everything. People might
admire production design, they might admire a decent script but they either fall in love
with or don’t fall in love with the people in front of them so casting is everything. If you’re asking in effect was not casting
stars? Well generally speaking one doesn’t on Doctor
Who. Generally speaking you don’t cast an established star. It has happened obviously with Chris, obviously
with Peter but generally speaking they are new people, someone who is going to come to
define the show. But yeah, it’s never a no-brainer. It’s a massive challenge. Before you cast Matt Smith as the Doctor,
is it right that you were going to cast David Tennant? You were actually going to continue
him? I mean David was just going the now to me
very familiar angst about leaving. Piers Wenger and I talked to David, I ran
him through what that series would be if it was him. It definitely would have been his
last one, there was no question about that. Yeah. My version of that series was going to be
that the David Tennant Doctor would crash into the back garden about to regenerate and
little Amelia would help him back to the TARDIS and he would fly off. And she’d meet him again when she grew up
but he’d have no memory of that because we come to realise that was the Doctor from
the future. We’d make our way through the series to
the point where the Doctor gets back. I sort of used that idea again later. So that would have been the show and he thought
very hard about it and then he left me a message on my answerphone saying he thought very hard
about it and as I thought he would, he decided to move on. And there was also a bold new aesthetic for
Series 5. New logo, new TARDIS inside and out, new sonic plus new brand extensions like
the Doctor Who Experience, Doctor Who Live, computer games as well as a whole new visual
language and cinematography for the show. We’re anticipating the show to change drastically
again. Is it the duty of the showrunner to be such an agent of change? No. No. It’s not your duty to do anything of
the kind. It should be your duty to make good Doctor Who. That’s it. That’s all the
audience cares about. Periodically, Doctor Who must change a lot
because that’s what it does best. It doesn’t survive change, it survives because of change. So occasionally, often coincidently with the
change of showrunner, you have to sort of wrench things around a bit. I don’t know that I went into Doctor Who…
I know I didn’t go into Doctor Who thinking that this was the perfect time for a massive
change. But the fact was, Julie, Russell and Phil
were leaving, David and Catherine were leaving, everything was changing. All we could do… the best way to conceal
that level of change was to change everything. Do you know what I mean? Yeah. If everything changed, it looks like a bold,
new decision and a new era. It was frankly… if David and Catherine had wanted to continue,
I wouldn’t have done that. It would have been the same TARDIS… because
there was no way that version of the show was worn out. Not everything you introduced was successful.
You introduced a new design for the Daleks. There we go, on our mugs over there. How hard is it redesigning an icon? I would appear to make it look extremely difficult. It was a salutary lesson and lets just be
clear in talking about the redesigned Daleks, that the fault resides entirely with me and
not any of the brilliant team that made the new Daleks. They were beautiful in many respects. It was my mistake and a completely unnecessary
one. But I tell you what was interesting about
it. It was a fascinating lesson that I sort of never forgot. We made the Daleks huge. What a stupid idea. Why? You make the Daleks huge, you just move
the camera further away and you make the Doctor smaller. Now if you’ve seen those actual props, they’re
gorgeous. If you go and see them in real life or you’ve seen them on stage, they look
amazing. Where they don’t look good is on television,
the only place where it matters that they look good. And we put so much thought and effort into
our first block which were the Weeping Angel episodes, the two-parter. Episodes that I
think stand up to this day as the best we ever did. They were absolutely tremendous episodes.
I mean, Matt looks like he’s been playing it for years, Karen look like she’s been
there forever. It all looks terrific. I took my eye off the ball… of the block
2 episodes and I shouldn’t have been visiting that set, I shouldn’t have been giving endless
notes on the rushes that were unnecessary. I should have moved my attention to block
2, taken a look at those Daleks and the camera tests and thought, no let’s not do it. Most of the things I wasn’t quite sure about
happened in that second block. But my attention was on beginning. The beginning
is easy, it’s keeping going that’s hard. And keeping going is all about block 2. As well as a bold change in look, there was
a distinct shift in tone for Series 5 – from Russell’s kitchen sink drama with companion’s
families to a more fairytale, escapist vibe. Was this a conscious effort to tap into an
emerging young adult audience? No. And I sometimes think Russell and I, in
order to make us look different, have to be caricatured in our approaches. I think most people who are not Doctor Who
fans, if you described the first 4 years of modern Doctor Who as a kitchen sink drama,
would be wondering what the hell was in your kitchen. People say it’s a soap opera. It really
isn’t. That’s a grotesque exaggeration and the
fairytale approach is a grotesque exaggeration of mine really. It’s about a wizard in a magic box with
a magic wand. I don’t think… it fits sometimes. It doesn’t
fit all the time. There’s loads of episodes that are not fairytale at all. It became the thing people said and once you
watch something through a filter of how it’s already been described to you, you see it. Go look at any of Russell’s series and say
fairytale. You’ll find it there again. Any series of Dcotor Who is like a fairytale because
that is the genre it most precisely resembles. I never went in going no guys, I just need
a bit more of a fairytale filter on that lens. Your first series was a critical and ratings
success both in the UK and around the world. Then you have to do it all over again. How
hard is it coming up with that “difficult second album”?
It’s very hard. It’s very hard. Because just like the first and second block,
you get to the end of it and you think again? What are you talking about, again?
What do you mean, again? We’ve just done it.
Can I have a holiday? And the thing about Doctor Who is it overlaps.
You’re working on the next series while you’re still working on the last one. And
in that overlap, sometimes you can really loose track of what is going on.
So it was difficult. Of course it was difficult. But by that stage, by having got through one
series of Doctor Who, I knew what I was about. I was never going to have enough time to do
anything. I knew that the way a working day or a working week on Doctor Who is, you’re
not going to get everything done that you need to get done.
So you have to kind of choose your failures. We’re going to let that one go because we
need to fix this. I could go to that meeting but that script needs rewriting.
You start to know what you must be. Not where you’d like to be or not even where it would
be beneficial for you to be. Mostly, I’m trying to fix scripts. That’s
what I’m doing and if I’m not doing that, there better be a damn good reason.
And you have experimented with format quite a bit as well – Series 6 and series 7 are
split seasons, you introduce “blockbuster season openers” and then series 7 is all
blockbusters. How much of these were stylistic choices and
how much of these were practically driven? Actually, I think I can say Series 6 being
split wasn’t me at all. It was BBC One, they wanted a split season and there was something,
it’s pretty obvious… I can’t remember but it’s pretty obvious
if you go back and look at the TV schedules, why we’re split around the summer, I forget
what was going on in the middle but there was something and they didn’t want us there.
I looked at it and I thought actually, you know, we could take it to that cliffhanger
and resume. I thought that works quite well. That’s quite good.
And I guess you don’t really have any control over the scheduling as showrunner? I think
fans assume this, that you do. That I have some God like power.
Yeah. I have absolutely no control over the scheduling.
I deliver it when I’m told to. Every attempt that the BBC has made to schedule
Doctor Who and Sherlock around each other and they have made attempts.
Not because I’ve asked them to, I’ve never asked them for that. Every time they do it,
it’s been a disaster. They’ve always ended up at the same time.
Every single time. People keep saying, oh you’re scheduling it around Sherlock.
Look at it! I’m doing them on the same day, in the same month! How could that be to my
benefit? So every single time I did a series of Sherlock,
I was running between the two shows. Running between the 50th and I think His Last
Vow on Sherlock, it was just insane. No one is meant to live like that.
At this point I think it’s worth talking about your love for writing timey-wimey stories.
Barring a few noticeable exceptions, Doctor Who writers have used time travel predominantly
as a vehicle to get to a story, whereas you in your stories, it’s almost a character
in it’s own right. What is it about you and time?
I think time travel is fascinating. I think the timeline of a story is fascinating.
Even if you take time travel out of the picture, when does a story start and when does a story
finish and in what order do you tell it? This is not a matter of sequence, this is
a matter of point of view. From who’s point of view are you telling
the story. Mostly we tell a story from gods point of
view or from a universal observers point of view.
If we told the story of a terrible disaster that happened, we’d tell it from a gods
eye view. Fine, nothing wrong with that.
Except nobody experiences the events that way. No one person experiences that way. Everybody
had their own story, their own version of it.
And later on, somebody dispassionately pieced that all together and came up with a largely
fictitious but probable fairly accurate version of the event.
If you want to put people inside a drama, you have to go to point of view. The events
as it happened to this person from beginning to end then as it happened to this person.
And you allow the audience to assemble their own gods eye view of the event.
Yeah. Largely, even in my era, the TARDIS is like
a bus and it delivers you to the next adventure but sometimes, sometimes the Doctor’s unique
relationship with time can be at the centre of a story because it’s not just that he’s
got a time machine. It’s not just that he owns a time machine,
he lives in one. He lives in one. The whole universe is alive and well outside his blue
doors. It’s not that he knows he was at Churchill’s
funeral, it’s that he’s having dinner with Churchill next Tuesday. You know, he
has… that’s a very, very different view of the universe.
And when you’re celebrating a main character and trying to see to some degree the world
from his point of view, I think you can’t ignore the fact that for him, everyone is
still alive, there’s everything to play for.
Or when he’s having a lonely, morbid night with his electric guitar he’s thinking everybody
is dead. So sad.
Whilst you’ve won awards for some of your most timey-wimey scripts like Girl in the
Fireplace and Blink, paradoxically, for some fans – and you’ll have to forgive me for
this – some stories became quite hard to follow… I guess what I’m asking is how much of your
era happened and how much of it un- happened? Periodically, we do a house cleaning on Doctor
Who. I think I’ve just one again which allows you to correct the continuity to roughly the
history of Britain as we know it. British history according to Doctor Who would
mean that if you saw an alien, you’d say oh, is it Christmas?
You’d be so bored of it. So un-happening stuff occasionally I think
is necessary. I mean, Russell did it with the Time War,
I did it with The Big Bang, the big memory thing recently. Occasionally you just say
no, the new companion comes from our Britain, not alternative Britain where Daleks are commonplace.
If Chris does a big Daleks invade Earth story, I want people to be saying what are these
strange things, not oh, they’re quite reliably defeatable, aren’t they?
Just go into a room with a very narrow doorway and they’re screwed.
Hard to follow… if they’re hard to follow it’s because I’ve screwed up. If they’re
good and exciting it’s because I’ve got it right.
The timey-wimey story is not Blink and it’s not Girl in the Fireplace, it’s not any
of those. The impossible to track Doctor Who story is
Day of the Doctor. I can say this because I wrote it, in what order does that happen?
Where do you start? Do you start with Matt Smith, do you start with John Hurt? Do you
start with Paul McGann? Where do you start and what happens next?
Because technically what happens next is that bit and that bit and then you get the bit
where the Doctor goes back along his own timeline and fixes where the painting is.
Now, that’s Doctor Who at it’s most accessible and multiplex. That is Doctor Who as Doctor
Who for everyone, even if you have never seen it before and it did work from that point
of view. And yet, by far and away, it is the most complicated
timey wimey Doctor Who story ever told. If you get it right, it works fine. If you don’t
get it right, then I end up confusing people and that’s my bad.
Some fans – as you know – are very vocal when they don’t like something. One of the
things you had to deal with that your predecessor didn’t have to as much was social media.
And it’s not just having an opinion, it’s people feeling like they need to be heard
and responded to. You yourself left Twitter in 2012, how did social media affect you as
showrunner? Well first of all I left Twitter in 2012 because
I was having trouble meeting my friends at a pub.
During the time I was on Twitter, people started communicating, the friends I knew were communicating
on Twitter saying are you going tonight? And I wasn’t seeing anything as there was
just this vast column of people mostly saying, contrary to what people imagine, mostly saying
very nice things. And I was missing everything. Initially I
thought, can I edit this down so I can just see my friends which apparently you can and
then I just thought, sod it. No one will notice if I just get rid of it.
Over the time since I’ve left and I’ve had no temptation to go back, I think it’s
probably got a lot more nasty, people have talked.
I know that, I see what sometimes people might day to Luis or to Sue or to Mark and I think,
that’s out of order, people should not be behaving that way.
It’s a difficult and sometimes unpleasant subject.
I don’t know, because I socialise as you well know among Doctor Who fans. I have been
to conventions I’m sure and I’m sure we’ll go to some in the future.
And I’ve always known it to be a very, a very friendly, very creative, very bonkers
community which I rather like and there’s great artwork that comes out of it, great
work comes out of it. People change careers because of it. It’s
a cradle for a next generation of a creative community. I think that’s very exciting.
But and impossibly small number of incredibly rude, attention seeking people have dominated,
or it seems to me have dominated the online discourse about it.
Which means I have to say to all of the writers and directors who comes onto the show, you
will not go on social media, you will not go there because I don’t want you upset.
I don’t want you coming in one morning crying, I don’t want you in a state of misery and
when you go to a convention, maybe be wary of it.
This pains me, this pains me to an extraordinary extent because the relationship between a
fandom and a show should be permeable. They should be talking to each other. Because particularly in Doctor Who where the
creators of Doctor Who grew out of the fandom of the show, the idea that we don’t just
hang out in the same bar. The idea that the story doesn’t sit around
the same campfire as the audience if abominable. It’s not the way it’s meant to be, we’re
not supposed to be off a the side of the mountains in a storm issuing proclamations to the unworthies
below. We’re supposed to be out among our audience,
talking to our audience but if you have that poison, then you can’t with a good conscious
suggest that people do that. Let’s turn to a big milestone in both your
career and the history of Doctor Who, the culmination of the show becoming a global
phenomenon, the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor. Pressure – that’s
the one word that springs to mind. Pressure and responsibility. How did you cope during
this period? Very badly. Very, very badly. The Doctor Who 50th, I think I’ve said it
many times but there wasn’t anything very enjoyable about doing that. I look back on it with great satisfaction
as I think it’s genuinely a terrific episode of Doctor Who, I’ll just say that. It is. But at the time, I was just upset. Everybody
was cross with me, I remember everybody was cross, everybody. The script was light so everyone was cross
with me. I’m saying, guys, who’s in it? Well, they’re all in it. No, you tell me who’s on a contract to be
in it because I promised this years Olympics. Could you tell me who’s in this? Jenna. And that was the list. I’m saying right, so I’m celebrating 50
years of Doctor Who with Jenna who is wonderful and one of my personal favourites but I don’t
think that’s really going to cut it. So I came up with an alternative version of
the 50th which was the Doctor having stepped into his own time stream at the end of The
Name of the Doctor, is eliminated from all of space and time and Clara is trying to remember
him and the Doctor turns up in various different fictional forms. And she says that story is true, that wizard,
that was the Doctor. And she keeps encountering this and we have the Doctor played by a succession
of very famous people. That was my plan, very famous people. As it turned out, David and Matt, neither
of whom were under contact, both said yes, thank god. David said Am I just the Comic
Relief in this. And Matt said, why has David got all of the
jokes? So I’m saying, do you want to swap? And they were saying no. Okay. Christopher Eccleston said no and that was
just awful. I was so depressed that day. Because I had written most of the script and
he was in it and I didn’t know what to do. And I was saying, could use one of the other
Doctors? And the BBC were not unreasonably saying, you promised is the Olympics. So I went finally… there was no ending to
The Name of the Doctor. It just ended with the Doctor going into the time stream with
me saying, I’ll figure it out when we figure out what we’re actually doing for the 50th. So I said, okay, what if he goes in there,
we discover to our horror that there was another Doctor. There was another Doctor in that time
that Michael Grade took the show off the air, there was a whole other Doctor and we never
saw him. And immediately when I said it, I regretted
the words that had come out of my mouth because everybody went mad with joy for this idea. I remember Faith Penhale saying this is brillaint,
that’s exactly what we needed, we need a new Doctor played by an incredibly famous,
distinguished actor. Big ask. And I was saying no, no, no, we’ve changed
the numbering. I can’t change the numbering. Your fan brain must have been going ahhh! People have got tattoos with the numbers,
those people are going to be in agony replacing the numbers, there might not be room for a
new one. But the dye was cast, that was the right thing
to do. I remember talking to Mark Gatiss about this and he said that’s right because the
50th has to do something new. Just raiding the back catalogue is not enough,
just do something new and that is the right thing to do. So I wrote it as, the last line of the script
is the most famous actor in the world turns around, introducing “_____” as the Doctor. And I was saying, who could that be? Because if it’s Brad Pitt, oddly enough,
you go, no. I mean, I think Brad Pitt is great and he’s
obviously a massively beautiful man and a popular actor but you wouldn’t want him
as the Doctor, would you? I can’t see it. No. Also it needed to be someone who could
have been the Doctor in the 16 year gap. It needed to be someone who in your ideal,
most frantic dreams could have been the Doctor. The byword for the part was, if it was John
Hurt, it would be great. We didn’t have a second idea. We did not
have a second idea. So we sent it to John Hurt. We are weeks out from the show, weeks out.
A really small number of weeks out from the show, like 4 weeks, something like that. It’s
terrifying. And he said yes, thank god. And so the 50th
was saved. Because if some bloke had just turned around
to be the Doctor… As well as retrospectively introducing a new
incarnation, the War Doctor, you’ve also reversed a decision of your predecessor by
resurrecting the Time Lords and at the end of The Day of the Doctor, it’s suggested
that the story for the next 50 years if finding Gallifrey the long way round yet we visit
it- Oh there it is. 2 years later. Why do we go back to Gallifrey
so soon? Because I don’t think there’s any plot
at all in the Doctor looking for Gallifrey. I think it’s boring. I kept trying when we were doing series 8,
I kept saying well maybe he could be looking for Gallifrey. And? Well… it’s not Gallifrey. Oh, still not
Gallifrey. Shall we go back? Let’s have an adventure anyway but it’s
not Gallifrey is it? Not Gallifrey. Ahh. I think 50 years of that would have got quite
boring. Yeah. So introducing as has been done occasionally,
a quest into Doctor Who. Does it work? They done it in the Key to Time season. Even there, which I think it’s a lovely
season of the show but you’re saying there’s the bit, got that, let’s have an adventure
now. It just adds on to the outside of it. Also, the other thing is, which is a great
mantra for me and Mark Gatiss, to hell with deferred pleasure. If something exciting is coming up, do it
now. Come on. Don’t wait for 20 years, just do it now. Oh Gallifrey. There it was. At this point, you knew you’d be saying
goodbye to Matt – did you consider moving on with him? Yes, I did. I always sort of assumed that
I would leave with Matt. I was so insanely busy, I didn’t have time
leave. Season 7, Day of the Doctor, Time of the Doctor,
people were saying well who’s the next Doctor? And I’m going what? What? Oh yes, better
find one. And before I know it, I’m auditioning Peter
Capaldi. That’s when I suddenly got excited. I thought
oh my god, Peter. Peter being the Doctor. That’s a whole new Doctor and that’s going
to be a whole new sky for us to fly through. Wow. And then you did several years after
that. 4 more years? Yes, well that’s another story. Well, that’s a story for part 3. And that’s the end of part 2, we’ll be
back next week with some of this. I took Chris out for dinner, just as a friend
just to hear what he was up to but really just to hear what his diary was. I was sort
of asking casual questions like are you doing a third series of I don’t know, Broadchurch? You’ll be able to see that here. To catch up on part 1 click here and to subscribe
to the official Doctor Who YouTube channel, click here. We’ll see you next week. Bye!